ENERGY – our prime need from food

 

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Energy

Energy from food is one of our prime needs for survival. As well as oxygen and water, without energy from food we would die. Every cell in the body requires a continuous supply. The macro-nutrients carbohydrates, fats, and protein are the sources for energy. When the body uses these for energy, the bonds between the atoms break and energy is released. Energy is expended within the body as electrical energy such as in nerve impulses, kinetic energy such as muscle movement, chemical reactions such as synthesis of new molecules; or the energy can be liberated as heat. (1,2)

Units of measuring the food energy supplied are the joule (amount of work performed when a mass of one kilogram is moved one metre by a force of one newton) or the calorie (heat required to raise temperature of one gram of water one degree Celsius). Being small units kilojoules (kJ) or kilocalories (kcal) are more commonly used. The standard measurement in Australia is kilojoules. One kcal is approximately 4.18 kJ. The energy supplied by each macro-nutrient differs. Fat averages 37 kJ (9kcal) per gram, protein 17 kJ (4 kcal); carbohydrates 17 kJ (4 kcal) and alcohol (in adults) 29 kJ (7kcal). (1)

The macro-nutrients are broken down into smaller units during digestion after a meal; carbohydrates into sugars, fats into fatty acids and protein into amino acids; which allows their absorption from the gut into the blood stream. They are then transported by the blood around the body for immediate use or converted into storage forms for later use. It is these storage forms of macro-nutrients that allows a continual supply of energy to each cell, between meals. (1,2)

In summary, in simple terms nutrients digested from food are absorbed into the blood stream and from there fluctuate within three main states.

The Fed State

After a meal (called post-prandial), the absorbed macro-nutrients flood into the blood stream. The influx of these nutrients are considered to be obtained exogenously which means from ‘outside the body’, or in other words – from food. The level of these nutrients rise in the blood in the fed state.

Storage

Carbohydrates are stored as glycogen in the liver and muscles. Fat is stored in adipose tissue. Protein does not have a storage form as such and there is a continual cycle of protein synthesis, breakdown, and replenishment. However, breakdown substrates can be used for fuel; and muscle and other tissue are considered protein reservoirs that can be broken down and used as fuel in an emergency. (1,2)

The Fasting State

Between meals, over-night or in periods of food deprivation; nutrients are considered to be obtained endogenously or from ‘inside the body’. This is when nutrients are drawn from storage or synthesised from other substrates to ensure adequate to supply to every cell.

Nutrient Balance

The body has an amazing capacity to keep essential nutrients, including macro-nutrients, within a narrow range in the blood stream to ensure a constant supply. One of the main nutrients and a prime need of the body is glucose …

To Be Continued

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DisclaimerNothing in this article or website should be taken as medical or dietary advice. Anyone reading any information provided within should seek advice from their own medical practitioner for any issue, disease, illness or health-related issue they may have. Always seek advice from a medical practitioner or dietitian before changing your own diet.
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References:

(1) E Whitney, S R Rolfes, T Crowe, D Cameron-Smith, A Walsh. Understanding Nutrition. Australia and New Zealand Edition. 2nd Edition. Cengate Learning. 2014.

(2) M L Wahlqvist. Ed. Food and Nutrition in Australia. Methuen Australia. 1982.

(3) Image courtesy [Grant.Cochrane]/Freedigitalphotos.net

 

“… eat the way your great-great-great- grandparents ate, and you’ll live a long life” …

Convicts in New Holland. Source: Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales (1)
Convicts in New Holland. Source: Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales1

Scattered throughout the food and diet literature is the suggestion that to ensure optimal health we should return to the eating patterns before the 1960s. This concept was popularised by Michael Pollan. In his book In Defence of Food2 one of his ‘rules of thumb’ is ‘don’t eat anything your great-grandmother would not recognise as food‘. His implied take-away message is we should ‘eat real, proper, simple food’ – not the kind from a packet. When a recent article3 suggested going back two generations further ‘eat the way your great-great-great-grandparents ate, and you’ll live a long life’, it got me wondering.

To begin with, my great-great-great-grandparents number 32. To find out if that quoted statement is true, I would have to trace my family history back to those 32 ancestors, understand their backgrounds, work out what they probably ate, then contemplate whether foods they were eating in the manner they were eating them could improve my own longevity.

This was an intriguing concept and I decided to investigate.

Luckily for me, I come from a line of family-history lovers. My sister, mother and other relatives traced my family tree to before the 18th century and have written books on it4,5,6, so understanding where I came from wasn’t difficult. My fifth generation ancestors from 200 to 250 years ago originated mainly from Britain but from diverse backgrounds of convicts, working class, tenant-farmers, middle class merchants, professionals, and one line possibly from landed gentry. With that variance, pin-pointing any single traditional food pattern would be challenging.

Gastronomic, other historians, and nutritionists have researched food history in Australia and that of Britain7,8,9,10,11,12,13. As I explored this literature genre – from a time that was supposedly before processed and definitely before fast food – I was to discover that this was not the case. Two hundred or more years ago people were not always eating “real” food. In fact in the days before refrigeration, the probable dietary patterns of my own ancestors would have included substantial quantities of preserved (salted, smoked, dried, pickled, candied) foods; biscuits, bread, cheese, tea, sugar, spices, flour; and later canned foods – all of which are processed foods and arguably many could also be deemed ‘fast-food’.

Depending on which ancestor and time period I looked back on, there were periods within my family’s history where they would have experienced borderline or even critical undernourishment. For other ancestors, who were or became financially secure, patterns of plentiful food and perhaps even eating to excess were apparent. Regardless of the background, however, there did appear to be a greater focus on either obtaining or producing food; and a much deeper connection with food and where it came from than many of us have today.

Furthermore, as I delved further into its history, I gained a greater understanding that food was behind many social and political reforms10, and was a contributing factor if not the whole drive and power behind the makings of the British Empire in the 17th and 18th centuries.14

Our current food environments and its nutritional consequences is a growing concern. The shaping of those food environments through history is a subject I feel deserves closer attention and a series of blog-posts.

I shall begin by going back to the land of my ‘mother country’.15

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This is an introductory post for my theme: Food History in Australia.
Tracing the diets of my ancestors, prequels to the food history I have lived through.

# 1: Introduction: “eat what your great-great-great-grandparents ate …”
# 2: British food history leading up to the 18th century.
# 3: The relevance of food in the rise of the British Empire.
# 4: To Australia: The Hungry Years. 1777 – 1800.
# 5: Australian Food History: Greener Pastures. 1800 to 1850.
# 6: Australian Food History: The Gold Rush Years. 1850 to 1900.
# 7: Australian Food History: Federation and WW1. 1900 to 1920.
# 8: Australian Food History: Nutritionism begins. 1920 to 1950
# 9: Living through History: 1950s to 1970s
# 10: Living through history: 1980s to 2000s

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Disclaimer: Nothing in this article or on this website should be taken as medical or dietary advice. Anyone reading any information provided within should seek advice from their own medical practitioner for any issue, disease, illness or health-related problem they may have. Always seek your own advice from a medical practitioner or dietitian before changing your own diet.

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Acknowledgements:

I acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land on which I have lived and worked. I pay respect to their Elders, past and present.

I thank my sister Margaret Francis, family historian; and my brother-in-law Dr Rodney Francis PhD (agriculture) for reviewing my initial draft and discussions.

I thank Melanie Voevodin @wedietitians for much thoughtful twitter discussions on how our food environments have become what they are and for references 8 & 9 below.

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References and Notes:

1. Ravenet, Juan. Convicts in New Holland. Lithograph 01 January 1793.
Felipe Bauza, cartographer – drawings made on the Spanish Scientific Expedition to Australia and the Pacific in the ships Descubierta and Atrevida under the command of Alessandro Malaspina, 1789-94. Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales. Public Domain. Out of copyright: Artist died before 1955.

2. Pollan, Michael. In Defence of Food. 2008. Penguin Press. London.

3. Williams, Zoe. Why it’s never too late to start lifting weight? The Guardian. Australian Edition. 05 December, 2018.

4. Francis, Margaret; Vernon, Stella; Wilkinson, Colin; editors. The Buddong Flows On: Volume 1 – ‘The Old Hands’. 2003. The Buddong Society. Wagga Wagga.

5. Francis, Margaret; Vernon, Stella; Wilkinson, Colin; editors. The Buddong Flows On: Volume 2 – ‘Genuine People’. 1993. The Buddong Society. Wagga Wagga.

6. Wilkinson, Colin; Francis, Margaret; editors. The Buddong Flows On: Volume 3 – ‘Those Precious Ones’. 2017. The Buddong Society. Wagga Wagga.

7. Santich, Barbara, What the Doctors Ordered: 150 Years of Dietary Advice in Australia. 1995. Hyland House Publishing. South Melbourne.

8. Clements, Frederick W. A History of Human Nutrition in Australia. 1986. Longman Cheshire. Melbourne.

9. Wood, Beverley, Editor. Tucker in Australia. 1977. Hill of Content. Melbourne.

10. Symons, Michael. One Continuous Picnic. 2nd edition. 2007. Melbourne University Press. Melbourne.

11. Chant, Susan. A History of Local Food In Australia 1788-2015. PhD Thesis. 2015. University of Adelaide. Adelaide.

12. Newling, Jacqueline. Foodways Unfettered: Eighteenth-Century Food in the Sydney Settlement. Thesis for Masters of Arts. 2007. University of Adelaide. Adelaide.

13. Bannerman, Colin. Print Media and the Development of an Australian Culture of Food and Eating c.1850 to c.1920. PhD Thesis. 2001. University of Canberra. Canberra.

14. Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power- The Place of Sugar in Modern History. 1986. Penguin Books. New York.

15. Definition: Mother Country: “The original country of colonists or settlers.” Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th edition 2014.

 

 

Potato Protein Power

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POTATOES.3.
“Potatoes” – Photo by Leonie Elizabeth 23 December 2017

If you have read one or many nutrition articles of recent years you would be forgiven for thinking that potatoes are nothing but carbohydrates with no other purpose as a food than converting to sugar, spiking blood glucose and creating havoc to our metabolic systems. Once a proud staple food, it has been attacked by dieters and professors alike, even relegated to the top tier (use sparingly) in an alternative Healthy Eating Pyramid.

You would also be forgiven for thinking of other foods, usually animal foods, as protein.

In food guides, foods are placed into various groups of similar nutrient value and these are usually fruit, vegetables, cereals, dairy and then a fifth group often named ‘protein‘ foods. Here ‘protein’ foods refer to meat, eggs, fish, poultry, legumes and nuts. The UK Eatwell Guide (1), although listing examples, refers to this group as ‘proteins’; the US Dietary Guidelines (2) refers to this group as ‘protein’ and ‘protein foods’; and the US Choose MyPlate as ‘protein’ (3). I note the Australian Dietary Guidelines (4) do not refer to this food group as ‘protein’ but rather lists the foods within the group ie: meat, poultry, fish, egg, tofu, nuts, seeds, legumes/beans. The Australian example aside, such messages of ‘protein’ as a food group from nutrition authorities in the UK and US, has a flow-down effect to health professionals and the public and this theme of ‘protein’ as a food group is common in the lay-press. One could mistakenly assume that those foods (meat, eggs, fish, poultry, legumes, nuts) are solely or predominantly protein; and that cereals, grains, tubers, potatoes, vegetables and dairy foods (which appear in different food groups) are thus low, inferior or poor quality sources of protein. Neither assumption is correct. Continue reading “Potato Protein Power”

A false dichotomy – dietary guidelines and the other diet

Dichotomy (2)
A Dichotomy – Black or White.

A dichotomy is a division into two entirely different and often contrasting domains, interests or activities (1). Examples of true dichotomies are black or white. Tall or short.

A false dichotomy is an argument giving a false illusion of there being only two choices whereas in reality there can be at least one other or even many possibilities (2). The argument is set up in such a way as the first choice is eliminated due to it being seen as a terrible choice, and the only other alternative is the second choice.

Over the last decade dietary guidelines have come under attack. Arguments against them are often presented in the manner of a false dichotomy. These are the steps used in that line of fallacy: Continue reading “A false dichotomy – dietary guidelines and the other diet”

Living through history. Our changing food environments. 1980s – 2010s.

Ultra-processed food (2)

Within two generations there has been a complete restructure of our food environments from mainly fresh foods prepared in the home, eaten with family or friends at the table with plates and utensils; to a high proportion of fast food, convenience food, snack-food, confectionery; from or at restaurants, cafes, take-away outlets and food-halls; out of bags, packets, bottles, cans, tubes, tubs … and eaten on the run. Continue reading “Living through history. Our changing food environments. 1980s – 2010s.”

My food history # 11 – 2000s – health claims, social trends and slow-ticking time bombs

 

Alcohol

Life gets busy

Two years after my youngest child started school I began working full-time.  I became involved in community groups and projects. Life became very busy.
Continue reading “My food history # 11 – 2000s – health claims, social trends and slow-ticking time bombs”

My food history # 10 – 1990s – combining ‘friendly’ food with ‘healthy’ food makes a bland basic (yet healthy) diet

Photo 2-3-18, 12 28 11 pm
Bread, rice, pasta, oats, potatoes, rolled/puffed wholegrain cereals become the base foods of meals in my longer-term diet. Photo by Leonie Elizabeth 01 March 2018.

Following my nutrition studies and some sideline research, I made changes to my diet: Continue reading “My food history # 10 – 1990s – combining ‘friendly’ food with ‘healthy’ food makes a bland basic (yet healthy) diet”